U.S. Attorney Urges the Public to Report Suspected COVID-19 Fraud

(STL.News) – U.S. Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr., of the Northern District of Iowa, today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov.

In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus fraud schemes.

“There are people out there who will try and take advantage of COVID-19 for selfish financial benefit.  I am asking everyone in our communities to stay vigilant and report suspected fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Deegan.  “We also all need to care for the most vulnerable citizens in our society and do our best to prevent them from becoming victims of unscrupulous criminals.”

Some examples of these schemes include:

Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud

Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received

Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations
Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures

In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities.  The Northern District of Iowa Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Vavricek.

The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes.  The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.